I missed the peak of autumn colour this year in the Eastern Townships of Quebec — where colours are as good as (or better than?) any place in North America — because of some trips that took me away from home. So when a friend sent me a photo he took a week or so ago of the hills behind our house, I was delighted.
What a spectacle it was. Friends who were in the Townships say they have never seen colour so vibrant, that lasted for such a long time.
The colour is lasting still. Even though the height of the season is past, marvellous colours are still shouting, ‘hey, look at me.’
A few days ago, in a brief break from the rain that has been falling (finally!), I took a walk around the garden at Glen Villa. In the Lower Garden, the stephanandra (Stephanandra incisa ‘Crispa) by the steps to the Lower Garden was a treasure chest of gold, its rich colour enhanced by the tones of the stone wall beside it.
A random branch of spirea caught my eye, particularly since — tucked unexpectedly behind the leaves — a flower or two was blooming.
A lonely bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia) was blooming as well, but more powerful were the shades of red and green in its leathery leaves.
An old hydrangea that has been here for fifty years or so was brilliantly dressed. This shrub is one of my favourites — it reminds me of a similar shrub in our garden in Oakville, Ontario where we lived when our children were young.
On the bank of the lake, plumes of miscanthus were strikingly white against a dark green background. And how to describe the colour of the leaves? Orange caramel? Sticky toffee?
Orange and yellow are the dominant colours now, and the prairie dropseed (Sporabolus heterolepis ) at the Aqueduct combines them in a splendid burnt orange that reminds me of John Keats’ poem about autumn.
The poem opens with familiar words — “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” The words and the poem as a whole speak more of mood than colour. Which isn’t surprising — mood is what autumn is all about. There’s sadness for what is gone and a wistful longing for what is to come. But for me the crisp air and blazing colour make the longing hopeful. When I see the arching prairie dropseed moving in a breeze, like “hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind,” I don’t mind that the air is cooler day by day. I feel happy.
Keats really captured the spirit of autumn. His lines reverberate and recall seasons past and present, when apples bend the “moss’d cottage-trees/ And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core…”
Today, as a light rain falls, the black trunk and branches of the linden tree at the end of the Big Meadow (aka, the Big Lawn) offer a startling contrast to the yellow leaves that linger. Despite the rain and winds, despite the sprinkle of snow and the light frost that greeted me a few morning’s ago, they are hanging on, ripe to the core.
What is autumn like in your part of the world? Does it make you sad or happy? Or both?